Objectives: This study evaluated the effectiveness of group cognitive behavioural therapy (GCBT) for the treatment of anxiety disorders in children over an initial period of 12 weeks and to one-month follow-up. Parents of the children receiving GCBT participated in adjunctive psycho-education sessions and the effect of these sessions on parental anxiety was also evaluated.
Methods: Participants were 12 children, six male and six female, aged between 11 and 15 years who were attending a child mental health service. Participants were interviewed with their parents and anxiety symptoms assessed, using the following measures: Anxiety Disorder Interview Schedule – revised, the Children's Depression Inventory, the Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale, the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory and the Child Behaviour Checklist. Parental anxiety levels were assessed using the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale. The 12 children were randomly assigned into two age- and sex-matched groups. While the first group received therapy, the second group acted as a treatment-as-usual control (TAU) group. The second group began group cognitive behavioural therapy after the 10-week waiting period. All participants and their parents provided structured feedback on the intervention.
Results: Group cognitive behavioural therapy was significantly effective in reducing both child-reported depressive symptoms, and anxiety on the physiological, worry and total anxiety subscales of the Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale. There were associated significant increases in the childrens' subjective levels of general and total self-esteem, that relating to their self-confidence with peers and when engaging in social and academic pursuits. Diagnosis of anxiety disorder reduced by an average of 67% immediately post-treatment, and by 72% by the onemonth follow-up period. Parents reported significant reductions in their children's levels of internalising symptoms, thought and attention problems. However, parents reported no significantly positive changes in their own levels of depression, anxiety and stress symptoms.
Conclusions: Group cognitive-behavioural therapy is a useful and clinically effective intervention for the treatment of anxiety disorder in children.